The mass media seems to habitually inflame the public and never pass on the opportunity to sensationalize rape through misleading statistical conclusions. The result disrespects victims and distorts the public perception of a serious crime.
The oft repeated “one in five women in America have been raped” comes from a CDC survey which, when examined, is faulty and which stands for no such proposition.
Put plainly, “rape culture,” does not exist in the way it is represented. Kathy Young, editor at Reason Magazine, notes the following in a Time magazine piece,
These alarming headlines were typical of the coverage of last week’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on sexual and intimate violence in the United States. The CDC study—the second in two years—seems to support a radical feminist narrative that has been gaining mainstream attention recently: that modern America is a “rape culture” saturated with misogynistic violence. But a closer look at the data, obtained from telephone surveys done in 2011, yields a far more complex picture and raises some surprising question about gender, victimization, and bias.
The CDC estimates “2 million adult American women were raped in 2011 and nearly 6.7 million suffered some other form of sexual violence,” while the Department of Justice NCVS estimates that number to be at “238,000 rapes and sexual assaults.” (Ibid)
What causes the disparity in numbers? Claire Groden (New Republic) points to a redefining by the CDC of rape to include all consensual sex in which an individual was inebriated. Thus, if you wanted to have sex and smoked a joint or got drunk with your partner first (mutually or by yourself) you’ve just been raped. If your consensual partner got high or drunk with you, you’ve just raped your partner too.
The CDC survey asked, “if the respondents had ever experienced various sex acts while ‘drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent.'”
So that night you celebrated your anniversary with your lover, drinking wine and having sex all night? Yeah, the CDC says you’ve just spent the night raping each other. This is the basis for a supposed American ‘rape culture’.
Further aggravating the disparity is the phrasing chosen by the CDC to bias respondents,
…CDC survey respondents are not asked whether anyone has used physical force or threats to make them engage in a sexual activity, but “how many” people have done this (in their lifetime and in the past year). This wording removes the extra hurdle of admitting that such a violation has happened, and thus encourages more reporting. But could it also create “false positives” by nudging people toward the assumption that the default answer is affirmative—especially when preceded by a battery of other questions and statements about sexually coercive behavior…
At no point are respondents given any instructions that could result in fewer reports of alleged victimization: for instance, that they should not include instances in which they had voluntary sex while drunk but not incapacitated.
Claire Groden questioned this, concluded that, “[d]ue to the survey question’s phrasing, a person who had been drunk—but still considered herself capable of giving consent—might have answered yes to that question.”
The very fact that we’re stuck fighting a gender war obscures actual victims of criminal sexual assault – men and women.
“…it is just as misleading to equate a woman’s experience of alcohol-addled sex with the experience of a rape victim who is either physically overpowered or attacked when genuinely incapacitated. For purely biological reasons, there is little doubt that adult victims of such crimes are mostly female—though male children and adolescents are at fairly high risk: as criminologists Richard Felson and Patrick Cundiff report in a fascinating recent analysis, a 15-year-old male is considerably more likely to be sexually assaulted than a woman over 40. The CDC reports that 12.3 percent of female victims were 10 or younger at the time of their first completed rape victimization; for male victims, that number is 27.8 percent.”
Sexual violence IS a gender neutral issue, and the idea of men forcing a ‘rape culture’ on women distorts this fact. So please, before anyone goes off on a poorly informed gender bashing rant, do the research, learn the facts, and stop disrespecting victims by turning violence into a political issue.